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Four critical links toward Boston comprehensive economic development

James Jennings | 12/18/2013, 12:10 p.m.

A fourth component of comprehensive economic development should involve the deepening of partnerships among parents, students and schools, and community. Our economic future is directly linked to the quality of public education, of course. This is precisely why we need to move from being satisfied with “pockets of excellence” to community-wide academic achievement.

There are a lot of good ideas for improving our public schools. But simply calling for more charter schools as panacea, or highlighting how this one school or two schools passed the high stakes testing screens, or blaming teachers, all miss the boat of the future. The discourse on education reform and how to improve the quality of public schools has been silo-ed with piecemeal reforms that can be disconnected from a bigger picture, including what might be in the best economic development interests for Boston.

An overall economic development strategy which does not pay adequate attention to some of these missing links in traditional economic development — the challenge of poverty; the significance of small and neighborhood businesses; the critical role of our community-based nonprofits and utilizing public schools as venue for partnering with neighborhoods — does not reflect smart economic development for the future of Boston.

James Jennings, Ph.D., is professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University.